Action Alert from the US PROStitutes Collective
URGENT: The vote on the New Hampshire Bill HB1614 to decriminalize prostitution was postponed last week and will be voted on tomorrow February 17! Legislators are hearing from people in NH opposed to the bill so please write and/or call in to support.
You may have heard the exciting news that a Bill has been introduced to decriminalize prostitution in the New Hampshire legislature. This is the first Bill we know of proposing decriminalization in the US!
The Bill “legalizes consensual sex between consenting adults and makes solicitation of sexual contact involving a person under 18 years of age or through the use of force and intimidation a felony”.
A hearing was held at the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on January 28th. While there was intense questioning of Rep. Elizabeth Edwards, the leading sponsor of the Bill, many on the Committee seemed sympathetic to the arguments that criminalization made women more unsafe and punished women and children for trying to survive poverty. One man who came to oppose the Bill withdrew his testimony after hearing the convincing arguments. See more at press conference and hearing.
Next steps: The Committee will rule on the Bill tomorrow February 17, and regardless of outcome, the Bill will go to the House for a vote. Your support is critical!
Among those testifying in favor of the Bill were: Rachel West of US PROStitutes Collective (see opposite) who described how criminalization makes sex workers vulnerable to violence, and how Black and other people of color are disproportionately targeted; Bella Robinson of COYOTE who reported that when arrests of sex workers stopped in Rhode Island, levels of STDs fell; Phoebe Jones of the Global Women’s Strike who connected the fact that one in 25 families in the US now live on less than $2 a day with the rise in women going into prostitution. They also testified against an alternative Bill to criminalize clients.
HB1614 was introduced by three women legislators: Rep. Elizabeth Edwards (see her opposite speaking at press conference), another Democrat Rep. Amanda Bouldin (not pictured) and a Republican Rep. Carol McGuire (left of podium). Amnesty International’s vote in support of decriminalization of sex work was a seminal impetus for the Bill.
As the Committee is considering the Bill, it would help if they heard your support. Please write or call in to make your case in support of decriminalization.
Points to make in your letter may include that decriminalization would:
* Increase safety as sex workers could work together and more easily report violence;
* Enhance health as sex workers could more easily access services and wouldn’t be deterred from carrying condoms for fear that they will be used as evidence of prostitution;
*Free up police time to focus on the investigation of violent crimes such as rape and domestic violence rather than the policing of consenting sex (particularly important as the Committee is primarily made up of former and current law enforcement);
*End criminal records which bar sex workers from getting other jobs. This is crucial for anyone who may want to leave the sex industry and is unable to;
*There is no evidence that decriminalizing prostitution attracts crime – in fact, it decreases crime, much as revoking prohibition reduced crime.
*Considering that rising poverty is increasing the numbers of women, particularly mothers, going into sex work, you may also want to raise that, if people are looking to reduce prostitution, addressing this poverty and providing resources would be a much more effective strategy.
Please see below the list and emails of committee members to contact.
New Zealand successfully decriminalized prostitution in 2003 and a government review showed positive results: no rise in prostitution; women able to report violence without fear of arrest; attacks cleared up more quickly; sex workers more able to leave prostitution as convictions are cleared from their records; drug users treated as patients not criminals.
Amnesty International’s path-breaking vote in August last year was in support of full decriminalization (not just sex workers but also clients, indoors and outdoors).
House Criminal Justice and Safety committee members:
Robert Fesh (r)
Shawn Sweeney (r)
Robert Fisher (r)
Dennis Green (r)
Timothy Robertson (d)
Andrew OHearne (d)
Arthur Barnes (r)
John Martin (r)
Laura Pantelakos (d)
Robert Cushing (d)
Latha Manjipudi (d)
Roger Berube (d)
John Burt (r)
Ed Corneau (r)
Harold Parker (r)
Geoffrey Hirsch (d)
Len DiSesa (d)